By Freya Stewart
TDTC’s recent success is the musical Edges by Pasek and Paul, a song cycle that transports the audience into the turbulent rollercoaster world of young students. This performance is both hilariously funny, and emotionally moving. From the moment the actors unpack their suitcases into their university rooms, you enter a recognisable student bubble from which you are not released until you step out of the Assembly Rooms and onto the Bailey.
The crowded reality of student living is captured by both set design and lighting. The production team and stage managers create a setting that perfectly complements their show. The creation of both indoor and outdoor spaces gives the actors scope to move energetically and therefore convey the chaos of their dynamic lives and emotions. Simple spotlights and tastefully chosen colours direct our focus as an audience. The attention to detail is notable, and the contrast between the amusing onstage presence of Henry the Hoover and a subtly beautiful floral lamppost articulates the commendable way in which this musical is simultaneously humorous and moving.
The musical numbers become a celebration of the performers’ talents, and their powerful, harmonious voices sing out our recognisable youthful fears. The way they display both strikingly individual personalities and a universal sense of self-questioning communicates the musical’s main message: the accompanying apprehension when you are at the very edge of your life. In the opening number ‘Become’, Will Drake succeeds in the portrayal of a loveable young man with uncertainties about who he is meant to be.
Another unforgettable number is ‘Lying There’ and Olivia Jones’ powerful facial expressions and excellent range of emotions accentuate her magnificent voice and allow her to demonstrate the complex heartbreak of one unsure in love. In ‘I Hmm You’ Nina Hayward uses her voice and movement to create moments of such sweet connection with Archie Collins. Her commitment to the presentation of simultaneous awkwardness and irresistible excitement communicates that relatable youthful difficulty of just saying the ‘L word’.
Issey Dodd deserves mention for her convincing performance of a frustrated yet loving younger sister. Her expression of the way that growing up becomes an upheaval of life as we know it, is both musically impressive and full of adolescent attitude.
The musical’s famous number ‘Be My Friend’, known commonly as ‘The Facebook Song’, does not disappoint, and becomes the energetic zenith of the musical. Enthusiasm bursts from the song’s initial sentiment of loneliness and portrays the power that social media holds over us as young people. Archie Collins stands out as especially comedic, and his energy is contagious. In addition, this number’s choreography is cleverly devised and perfectly synchronised in execution. The mechanical movement technique combined with the actors’ stylised over-excitement makes this moment one of the funniest and memorable of the night. The actors could pause between numbers like this before continuing the action to enjoy the applause they deserve and to prevent the audience from missing any of their words. However, this is a minor point and joint musical directors Freya Hartley and Sarah Callow facilitate beautiful harmonies throughout and capture a range of musical emotions. Ollie Brunt also adds an integral musical balance to the drumkit.
Co-directors Amy Shelmerdine and Emily Wilson display their talent in this performance and their dedication to an authentic display of emotional difficulties is especially evident. The decision to keep all the actors onstage for the duration of the musical is captivating because their characterisation never falters. This fuels the show’s energy as even when the actors are in the background, they remain strikingly individual and interesting.
In ‘Edges’, TDTC speaks in a heart-warming and uplifting manner about the things we know as students: the confusion of love, the pain of self-doubt, the fluctuation of feeling, and the way that occasionally drinking Peach Schnapps from a spotty mug just seems to make sense.
Image credit: Tone Deaf Theatre Company